On November 25, 2017, Vice President Leni Robredo visited Juan Sumulong High School in Quezon City as one of panelists in the third national event of the Babaenihan campaign. Babaenihan is a joint project of the Office of the Vice President (OVP) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). The dialogue was held as a part of the 18-day campaign to raise awareness on violence against women (VAW) as a public issue of national concern. Babaenihan is observed annually from November 25 to December 12.
The panelists included Klaus Beck, the UNFPA country representative, and Jean Enriquez, the executive director of the Coalition Against Trafficking In Women-Asia Pacific (CATW-AP).
What Is Abuse And What Do We Do When It Happens?
The highlights of the event include exhaustive explanations of the causes of abuse, what to do about abuse, and a few tips from the panelists about preventing abuse.
A Grade 12 student from Juan Sumulong High School asked during the event what to do after a friend confided to her about an abusive boyfriend.
Vice President Robredo answered that the first thing to do is to make sure that the friend’s trust is kept intact. “Her secret stays with you,” VP Leni advised. She added that it is common for victims of abuse to confide to people they trust when the abuse is already on its advanced stage. “Kung meron na agad judgement, baka 'di mo na ma-encourage na mag-confide.”
The next step, VP Leni said, is to learn to empathize, which is different from sympathize. Let the victim know that you understand and feel what she is going through. The last step is to help the victim realize that the power to resist and avoid abuse is in her hands: “Unti-unti na ipapa-realize sa kanya na nasa kanya ang desisyon na hindi magpapaabuso.”
During the talk, VP Leni was also keen on making the audience—mostly students and faculty members of Juan Sumulong High School—understand the different forms of abuse.
She stated, “Abuse is not only about physical abuse.” To expound, she said that reading someone else’s phone messages—whether it’s a boyfriend’s or a girlfriend’s—without his or her permission is considered a form of abuse and an invasion of privacy. She also listed other forms of abuse: “kinokontrol pag-iisip mo, ini-alienate ka sa mga kaibigan mo, lahat ng kausap mo galit siya, inaaway ka nang inaaway,” and “gusto ng boyfriend mo siya na lang intindihin mo, huwag ka nang mag-spend ng time with anyone else.”
“Abuse usually is gradual. Nag-uumpisa siya sa maliliit at palaki nang palaki. 'Pag in-allow mo ito, ’yong susunod, susubok ulit, hanggang hindi mo ma-realize na grabe na.”
Jean warned friends to refrain from retaliating on behalf of the victim, especially online, such as publicly sharing the experiences of the victim and tagging the perpetrator on Facebook. She said to always think of the victim’s safety first, then connect the victim to people who are responsive, “na maaaring tumulong sa ating kaibigan.”
Why Do People Stay In Abusive Relationships?
Another student posed an important question: “Bakit may mga babae na nananatili sa mapang-abusong relasyon?”
The panelists all agreed that the answer to such a question may contain complex layers, but VP Leni shared one lesson that she learned from her previous job as a lawyer for victims of abuse. Women need to be independent, because dependence is a common cause of women allowing abuse to happen to them.
She explained, “'Pag sinabing independent, alam natin, kaya natin ’yong sarili natin without anyone else. ’Yong anyone else, dagdag na lang ’yon. Pero sa sarili natin, kaya natin. Hindi lang 'to sa mga may asawa, pero pati na rin sa mga estudyanteng kagaya niyo. Kasi 'pag merong emotional or financial, or whatever kind of dependence, kahit masama, kahit abusive ’yong relationship, ang tendency is to cling.”
Jean elaborated the need to further study and raise public awareness of gender issues: “Magandang ma-mainstream natin ’yong pag-aaral talaga sa gender sensitivity or ’yong gender issues and also sexuality na age-appropriate.”
In fairytales, for example, Jean said the end is always the girl getting the prince charming, implying that a man is the most important component in a woman’s happiness. “Mas maging critical tayo: ‘Ano kayang mali doon sa pagpapalaki sa amin?’”
Klaus focused on the pressures that the survivors are feeling from many sides. He stated, “Other pressures that might be outside from the society, which relates to that if you experience those kinds of issues, you are meant to resolve them as a family, and you’re not meant to seek outside help. That could be some pressures from the community or maybe even from cultural or religious sides that you’re not expected to raise these issues outside of the family.” He also said that some victims may have grown up in a home where abusive relationships are “not unusual.” He added that some perpetrators may also be victims of abuse themselves.
In the end, Klaus counseled the audience that it is better to prevent abuse than to stop it. Be wary of the signs: “Any relationship that doesn’t make you feel better about yourself, make you grow as an individual and as a couple is not the right relationship—and that’s the same whether it’s with a girl or a boy.”
Here is the full live video of the dialogue:
You can also visit this website to learn more about the campaign to stop violence against women.